The Year That Was: Women's Sport in 2017

Sport

ByTheMinWSL

Welcome to our round up of women’s sport in 2017. The running order is as follows: 1 Football 2 Cricket 3 Rugby 4 Cycling 5 Golf 6 Athletics 7 Boxing 8 Equestrian 9 Snooker 10 Notable Others

FOOTBALL (by Olivia) I have selected her five favourite women’s football matches of 2017 for the review: 5. PSG 4-0 Bayern Munich It was the second leg of the champions league quarter final and Bayern were somehow entering it with a 1-0 lead. They were totally outplayed at home but luckily for them had faced the least clinical team possible. Their lead didn’t last long as PSG began to score a series of beautiful goals. The team at that time still contained Cristiane, one of the best strikers in the game, before her move to China and in my opinion this game was the best demonstration of the absolute perfection that was possible when she combined with Shirley Cruz and Veronica Boquete and the rest of a brilliant if wildly inconsistent PSG side. The first goal was an unconventional finish from France striker Delie in the third minute but really that was the least impressive. Watching one of the best attacks in club football tear apart an admittedly poor Bayern side to earn their spot in the semi-final was an absolute pleasure, even if the competition did end with PSG’s second loss to Lyon on penalties of the year and Montpellier snatching the second champions league spot. 4. Orlando Pride 3-2 Sky Blue FC In the end this game didn’t really mean much. Orlando Pride made the NWSL playoffs but were comfortably outplayed by the eventual winners (Portland Thorns) and although Sky Blue didn’t always make much of an impact in the league Sam Kerr definitely did. It was a game which had just about everything. Orlando were in the lead just before half time thanks to a good goal and a penalty save from Aubrey Bledsoe but a second Sky Blue penalty made it 1-1. It didn’t take long after half time for the goal of the game (and one of the goals of the season) to be scored by league MVP Sam Kerr. Ali Krieger almost stopped Maya Hayes but the ball somehow made it through to Kerr whose excellent bicycle kick sent the commentator into a near meltdown. Marta’s typically impressive first- time finish from a lucky deflection off a cross was followed by a first NWSL goal from Rachel Hill and Orlando won the game in the 86th minute. For a league that has its unpredictability as one of its major selling points this was a pretty good advert for the game. 3. Manchester City Women 4-1 Birmingham City Ladies I may be a little biased with this one. That said, the FA Cup final is a massive game in English women’s football and it was something that Man City hadn’t yet managed to win and that Birmingham hadn’t won since they beat Chelsea on penalties in 2012. It was a rematch of the previous years’ League Cup final which had been won with a Lucy Bronze goal in extra time after no goals were scored in 90 minutes. Anyone expecting another close game (me) would be surprised. Bronze was once again the first goal scorer but this time that just opened the floodgates. 4 more goals were scored including goals from former world player of the year Carli Lloyd who never quite found her feet at city and Jill Scott and Izzy Christiansen two of the players involved when City Women won their first trophy. The goal of the game though was Charlie Wellings’ superb consolation goal, struck brilliantly past Karen Bardsley. It was the first women’s FA Cup final at Wembley to be decided by more than one goal and I think even if you aren’t a Man City Women fan it was a good watch.

2. France 3-0 USA This year was the second year of the She Believes Cup. A ridiculously named tournament in which four national teams (Germany, France, USA and England) go head to head to be crowned winners. It’s essentially 6 pointless friendly matches between (arguably) the best teams in the world designed to compete with the more established Algarve and Cyprus Cups. In the first year of the tournament the USA won and France finished last having scored no goals and only gaining 1 point from a 0-0 draw with England. In 2017 France won while scoring more goals than the rest of the teams combined and pushed the hosts into last place. This was mostly down to this one match. The USA are in transition and that was obvious but France were just way too good. Eugenie Le Sommer was unmarkable, Camille Abily was the perfect orchestrator and Wendie Renard was beyond imperious in defence. It was a near-perfect performance from one of the most talented teams there is and the top ranked team in the world were utterly thrashed. People started to believe France could finally win a major tournament. Unfortunately, they reverted to type at the Euros but for 90 brilliant minutes they were the best team in the world. 1. Denmark 1-0 Norway Norway were the hipsters’ choice to win the 2017 Euros. Not quite on the level of permanent favourites Germany and they didn’t have as successful a preparation as France did but they were still a talented team with a respected coach and there were expectations that they would improve on a disappointing World Cup performance with Ada Hegerberg the star striker leading them through the competition. It didn’t happen like that. It was a tough group to call before things kicked off but by this match Norway had lost both of their games and Denmark were level on points with Belgium so it was all to play for. The only goal was scored in the 5th minute by Katrin Veje but there should have been at least 5 or 6 more. Late offside calls, acrobatic saves, Norway hitting the woodwork and Stina Lykke Petersen’s amazing penalty stop kept it at 1-0 and Denmark carried on, eventually losing to the Netherlands in an unbelievably joyous and exciting final for the hosts in which my player of the year Pernille Harder was typically astonishing as she finished as a runner up. It was a brilliant tournament full of upsets and surprises and the home team triumphing and this one goal match in the group stages was the perfect summary of that.

CRICKET (by Mel) Women's cricket has made huge strides in 2017 with a global event (World Cup), the Ashes and also two T20 leagues being the main events this season. I will also be doing a Cricket summary of the year (coming 22nd of December) where I go into details of the World Cup and the Ashes so I here’s a general round up of women's cricket and how it has improved in 2017. However, in case you were not aware of the results - England beat India in the final of the World Cup at Lord's. However, it was a close run thing and they only won by 9 runs. Australia retained the Ashes but the series was drawn. In the last match, Beth Mooney and Danni Wyatt both scored T20 100s. Sydney Sixers won the WBBL in Australia Western Storm won the KSL in England. There are two things that really helped in the Women's game this year. Many countries have now got a form of central contracts for the women as well as the men meaning that cricket is considered a more full-time job rather than part time for women. The other is more coverage of women's games either on TV or streamed online. Most of the Women's World Cup was shown on Sky (the occasional game wasn’t shown when there was more than one on at the same time) and the Ashes was on BT Sport. Originally the Test match (in the multi format series) wasn't going to be shown but they had a stream of it. When they realised the quality was decent it was put on a main channel. Some of the KSL was also shown on Sky. The WBBL is being streamed at the moment. The popularity has definitely improved with the Lord's World Cup final being sold out. It probably helped that England got through to the final but we all know how big cricket is in India. Having them in the final of the World Cup has made people realise that it is not the men who play exciting matches. That is a big market to crack as well. The Ashes is another good series to sell – although some people still refuse to call it the Ashes despite being between England and Australia because they are not fighting for the urn. The audiences at the venues for the matches were 4000-5000 people which is a significant improvement. I hope that this trend continues into 2018 and that more and more people start to enjoy the matches. They may not be the bish, bash, bosh of the men's game but there is a lot that can be enjoyed. I feel that having double headers of women's and men's T20 (especially at international level) will help as well. Please read the cricket advent calendar on the 22nd for more details on the World Cup and Ashes series. Anya Shrubsole

RUGBY (by Mel) I am going to primarily focus on England Women's international rugby as it would take too long to summarise every country and every competition this year. Again, there is not much televised compared to the men's game but I was able to catch a few matches that were shown on the BBC. The main event this year was the World Cup which was won by New Zealand beating England 41-32 in the final. New Zealand got the first try but England soon came back at them. New Zealand scored a try right at the death but England were still leading 17-10 at half time. The second half was fast and furious so it was hard for me to keep up but New Zealand got over the line to become World Champions. I did the BTM on that which you can read here: https://www.bytheminute.co/events/5926 The women also compete in a Six Nations at the same time as the men. England won all of their five matches to win the competition by 6 points over Ireland in second place. France were 3rd, Scotland 4th, Wales 5th and Italy lost having not won a game in the competition. Not only did England win the whole thing, but they won games by big margins. The closest was against France where they won 26-13; the biggest margin was against Scotland winning 64-0. England have also just completed a three-match series against Canada winning every match. Canada improved over the series but still lost by big margins. They also narrowly beat France and Ireland in one off matches.

CYCLING (by Steph) In road racing, after Jolien D’Hoore of Belgium won the last race of this year’s UCI Women’s World Tour calendar - the Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta in September, the final classification of the WWT as a whole was settled. Anna Van der Breggen (NED) of Boels Dolmans winning the UCI Women’s World Tour honours, her palmares for 2017 including all three Ardennes Classics, the Amgen Tour of California and the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (POL) ran her close for a while with top 3 placings in 3 of the spring classics and overall victory in the OVO Women’s Tour in Britain. Boels Dolmans Cycling Team also won a second consecutive UCI Women’s World Tour team classification, with 14 victories in 2017. However, it was an impressive display by Team Sunweb at the World Championships in Bergen which saw them take the Women’s Team Time Trial title - a team including the American rider Coryn Rivera who had a breakthrough year internationally after winning a stage at Amgen. She went on to take 2nd at the Tour de Yorkshire and won the RideLondon Classique in July. A year after a shocking crash at the Olympic Road Race Annemiek Van Vleuten impressed with a fine victory at La Course by Tour de France and followed it up by winning the rainbow jersey in the ITT at the Worlds. Chantal Blaak (NED) was the surprise winner of the Women’s World Championship Road Race. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of Denmark dominated the UCI Women’s World Tour youth classification, however, it was Elena Pirrone of Italy who timed her form perfectly to take gold in both the Junior Women’s Time Trial and the Junior Women’s Road Race at the World Championships in September. The BTM cycling review of 2017 can be found here: https://www.bytheminute.co/events/6577 In BMX Blaine Ridge Davis (GBR) won the European Junior Women’s title in July but it was another Brit - Bethany Schriever - who took the Junior Women’s World Champion World crown in Rock Hill USA, winning all 5 of her races. Schriever also took the UK National Elite series title in August. Alise Post of USA won the Elite Women’s BMX World Championships.

At the Cyclo-cross World Championships in January, seven-time winner Marianne Vos looked to be closing in on an 8th title until a dropped chain let her main rival and eventual winner Sanne Cant of Belgium past after a photo finish. Cant was also overall winner in the Cyclo-cross women’s tour and is on course to do the same again this season. Brit Helen Wyman is having a good season after returning from injury. At 36 she is already a 9-time UK Champion. With 5 wins in the bag already this season things are looking much better for her. She has a healthy lead over Nikki Brammier in the British title rankings again. The 4 year Olympic cycle started over in 2017 so on the track so things were probably not quite up to standard as new riders were blooded and familiar names like Laura Kenny and Dame Sarah Storey took a bit of time out to start/increase their families. The Track World Championships was therefore not as strong a field as it might have been but there were still some great performances. Kristina Vogel won both the Individual Sprint and the Keirin while the USA took the team Pursuit title. Two Rainbow Jerseys were won by Brits - Welsh girl Elinor Barker was victorious in the points race and Scot Katie Archibald began a brilliant year with gold in the Omnium. Barker also took 2 silver medals. Both are also doing well in the ongoing World Cup series. Katie Archibald:

GOLF (by Alan) Sky have a stranglehold on golf coverage in the UK and disappointingly, despite there being a number of women presenters all over the various channels, their coverage of ladies’ golf is a bit thin on the ground. I suspect this is a bit chicken and egg – the execs probably arguing that there is no demand, so why broadcast it, and the audience saying there’s minimal and obscure coverage, thus the viewing figures are poor. Either way there’s no incentive to rejig the schedules. Having said all that, there was some coverage of the sport but I have to say that BTM did not step up as required and offer to do anything so Team BTM Golf, myself included, have to do better next year. The story for the past few years in ladies’ golf has been slow domination by the Far East, China and South Korea in particular. This is probably not the right place to go into the reasons for this, but Inbee Park among others has more or less done a Tiger and claimed most of the big trophies recently and this year was no exception, barring a couple of spirited performances from Europe and the USA. Ladies golf in the UK had a mini-resurgence but some of the people expected to do well have failed to deliver this year - perhaps the weakness of the LET in the global game is partly to blame? Who knows? Not me for sure. Anyway, the major honours of the year (5 in total on the ladies’ tour) went to the following. The ANA Inspiration was won in March by Ryu So-Yeon from South Korea in a play-off against the USA’s Lexi Thompson. An American, Danielle Kang, won the PGA title in June by a single shot from Canadian Brooke Henderson with a 13 under par total. Another South Korean, Park Sung-Hyun, picked up the US Open title in July by two shots from Hy Jin Choi, finishing with a credible 11 under par total over the tricky Trump National Course in Bedminster, NJ. IK Kim, another South Korean, won the 4th major of the year, the British Open at Kingsbarns in the Kingdom of Fife. She finished with a two-shot advantage over England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff. Are we seeing a trend here by any chance? The final major of the year was the Evian Championship and, in a shock upset to the trend, Sweden's Anna Nordqvist won in a play-off against Brittany Altomare after both players finished on -9. Over in the States, the season-ending CME Group Tour Champs was won by Ariya Jutanugarn, from Thailand, by a single stroke from America's Lexi Thompson (again). The winner of the money list was a South Korean. Surprise surprise! Thompson’s consistency (and winning) throughout the year gave her the season-ending CME Globe. The Ladies European Tour (LET) had a bit of a crisis mid-way through the year and it looked like it was on the verge of collapse - didn’t happen and England’s Georgia Hall eventually won the Order of Merit. The LET remains chronically under-funded and (when you take travelling, accommodation and other expenses into account) I’m amazed that any player is able to sustain a living from it. Without sponsorship and other deals the whole thing would just fold. The other big event of 2017 was The Solheim Cup and, after the controversy of the 2015 one (Petterson not giving a putt as a gimme, causing a mini-scandal), this was fairly standard fare. The USA ran out easy winners in the end with Juli Inkster's team winning by a handsome 16.5 to 11.5 margin. The scene was set early on with USA already 5 points ahead going into the final day singles. A couple of early wins for the USA pretty much sealed things, despite a spirited halving of the points on the final day. So, there you have 2017 in women’s golf - hopefully a bit more coverage next year at reasonable times and we’ll try and do our BTM bit as well. Park Sung-Hyun:

ATHLETICS (by Ewan) The Women’s Athletics was as exciting as usual this year, with the IAAF World Championships in London’s Olympic Stadium where everyone wanted to win a gold medal for their respective country and hopefully also bring a record. The Diamond League was also back for another year and it was going to be a close competition, everyone was aiming to qualify for the finals in Zurich and Brussels where they had a chance to take home the Diamond League Trophy in their respective categories. I will use the nominations for the IAAF Athlete of The Year Award, to give you a quick overview of some of the highlights of the year. The first one is Almaz Ayana who managed to win the World Championship in the 10,000m by an outstanding 47 seconds following her Olympic gold and World Record in the event last year. She also took silver in the 5,000m, losing out to Kenyan athlete Obiri. Next is Maria Lasitskene who was a Russian athlete, however, due to the Russian ban she had to fly the “no country” flag. She won the Diamond League in the High Jump with ease as well as winning gold in the World Championships, beating Ukrainian athlete Levchenko. In all she competed in 24 events and won every one of them. She even jumped 206cm this year which was the 5th highest jump by a female athlete ever. 5,000m runner Hellen Obiri also won every event she competed in, including the World Championships where she beat Ayana for the Gold Medal. She also won the Diamond League and set World Leads in 3000m and 5000m. Australian Sally Pearson was a 100m Hurdles runner who struck gold at the World Championship by nudging ahead of Dawn Harper Nelson. She also won an outstanding race in Zurich, where she beat Nelvis at the line by 0.001 of a second, making her Diamond League Champion too. Sally Pearson:

Sandra Perkovic, the discus thrower was next. She threw 71.41m, which was the longest distance thrown since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perkovic won the World Championship by beating Australian Dani Stevens and also won the Diamond League. Brittney Reese managed to only just out long jump her opponents in the World Championship, beating Klishina by just 2cm. She also jumped a huge 7.13m in another competition. South African, Caster Semenya who remained undefeated all year in the 800m, winning both the World Championships and Diamond League. She also ran a 1:55.16 which is the fastest time since 2008. To the disappointment of the London crowd, she also managed to grab World Championship Bronze in the 1500m, beating Laura Muir by the skin of her teeth (0.07 seconds)! Ekaterini Stefanidi is a Greek pole vault athlete who’s undefeated outdoors. She managed to vault 4.91m, which makes her the 4th best female pole vault athlete ever. She won the World Championships by 16cm ahead of Morris and won the Diamond League. Polish hammer throw master Anita Wlodarczyk was undefeated for the third year in a row. Her year included a fourth victory at the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge and gold at the World Championships. This included the second furthest hammer throw (by a woman) ever, the throw going 82.87 metres and 6 throws that went over 80 metres. Finally, there’s the Belgian who won the IAAF Female Athlete of The Year Award 2017. Nafissatou Thiam took gold in the heptathlon at the World Championships with 6784 points. At another meeting she managed to get a whopping 7013 points which makes her the 3rd best heptathlete ever. Nafi Thiam: